Vietnamese protestants condemn new religious law

A coalition of underground Protestant churches in Vietnam has condemned a new religious law drawn up by the communist government, saying it will result in further persecution of their followers.

The Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship (VEF), an organization of about 30 unregistered church organizations representing hundreds of house churches, called on the government to allow freedom to worship.

The new Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions was issued by the presidential office on July 12 and is due to come into effect on November 15.

The VEF said in an August 30 letter distributed by the US-based Compass Direct Christian advocacy group said the ordinance would create many problems and disadvantages for the church, especially for our gatherings for worship.

At the same time, it is likely to permanently outlaw our house church organizations, none of which have been recognized since 1975.

The government says the new law will serve as a legal basis to ensure the people's basic right to beliefs and religious freedom and reinforce the state's management in the area.

Using religion to sow communal divisions, cause public disorder, and spread superstitious practices are outlawed, only authorised clergy are allowed to preach, and only then at their approved place of worship.